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The author of this Psalm was David; which I know none that deny, and of which there is no just reason to doubt. The scope and design of it is manifest, to commend the serious and diligent study, and the stedfast belief and the constant practice of God’s word, as incomparably the best counsellor and comforter in the world, and as the only way to true blessedness. And this he confirmeth by his own example, which he proposeth to them for their imitation; and he declareth the great and frequent experience which he had of its admirable sweetness and manifold benefits in all conditions, and especially in the times of his distresses. And because it was a hard thing rightly to understand this word in all its parts, and harder to put it in practice, he therefore intermixeth many prayers to God for his help therein, thereby directing and encouraging others to take the same course. And because this Psalm was very large, and the matter of it of greatest importance, the psalmist thought fit to divide it into two and twenty several parts, according to the number of the Hebrew letters, that so he might both prevent tediousness, and fix it in the memory. It is further observable that the word of God is here diversely called by the names of law, statutes, precepts or commandments, judgments, ordinances, righteousness, testimonies, way, and word; by which variety he designed to express the nature and the great perfection and manifold parts and uses of God’s word: which is called his word, as proceeding from his mouth, and revealed by him to us; his way, as prescribed by him for us to walk in; his law, as binding us to obedience, his statutes, as declaring his authority and power of giving us laws, his precepts, as declaring and directing our duty; his ordinances, as ordained and appointed by him; his righteousness, as exactly agreeable to God’s righteous nature and will; his judgments, as proceeding from the great Judge of the world, and being his judicial sentence to which all men must submit; and his testimonies, as it contains the witnesses of God’s mind and will, and of man’s duty. And there are very few of these 176 verses contained in this Psalm, in which one or other of these titles is not found.
This Psalm contains the commendation of God’s word; David’s love to it; a prayer for grace to carry himself according to it; with an account of God’s law, institutions, commandments, testimonies, precepts, word, promises, ways, judgments, name, righteousness, truth, &c.; with a prayer for help and assistance.
The undefiled; or, the perfect or sincere, as this word properly and most frequently signifies; such whose hearts and course of life agree with their profession.
In the way; either,
1. In their way or course of life, which in Scripture is oft called a man’s way; or,
2. In the way of the Lord, as it seems to be explained by the next clause.
Who walk in the law of the Lord; who order their lives according to the rule of God’s law or word.
That keep, in mind and heart, that carefully and diligently observe,
his testimonies; his precepts. For the reason of this and the other titles of God’s word, see the argument or preface to this Psalm.
That seek him, to wit, the Lord, expressed Psalms 119:1, that seek his presence, and favour, and acquaintance.
With the whole heart; sincerely, industriously, and fervently, above all other things. This is opposed to hypocrisy, and sloth, and lukewarmness in religion.
Do no iniquity; or, are not workers of iniquity, i.e. do not knowingly, and resolvedly, and industriously, and customarily continue in sinful courses. So this phrase is understood Job 31:3; Job 34:8; Psalms 5:5; Psalms 6:8; Psalms 125:5; Proverbs 10:29; Luke 13:27; otherwise there is not a just man upon earth that sinneth not, Ecclesiastes 7:20.
They walk: this is their constant practice, and the general course of their lives, which is commonly signified by walking, as Psalms 1:1, and every where.
In his ways; in the paths which God hath prescribed to them.
Nor is it strange that thy people do so exactly and diligently observe and practise thy precepts, because they are commanded so to do by thee their sovereign Lord.
My desires answer thy commands.
Directed, or established, to wit, by thy grace and Holy Spirit; for the direction of God’s word he had already.
Then shall I not be ashamed; either of my actions, or of my profession of religion, or of my hope and confidence in thy favour. When sinners shall be ashamed both here, Romans 6:21, and hereafter, Daniel 12:2, I, having the conscience of mine own integrity, shall lift up my head with courage and boldness, both before men, when they either accuse or persecute me, and before God in the day of judgment, as it is said, 1 John 4:17.
Respect; a due and true respect, which implies high valuation, hearty affection, diligent study, and common practice.
Unto all thy commandments; so as not to be partial in my obedience, not to allow myself in the practice of any known sin, or in the neglect of any known duty.
Praise thee, i.e. worship thee; one eminent duty of God’s worship being put for all, as is frequent in Scripture.
With uprightness of heart; or, with a right mind or heart; in a right manner, so as may be acceptable to thee, and beneficial to myself.
When I shall have learned thy righteous judgments; when by thy good Spirit I shall be more fully instructed in the meaning of thy word; which is the only rule of thy worship; for want of a sound knowledge whereof many persons run into superstitious or erroneous practices.
I will keep thy statutes; it is my full purpose to do so, whatsoever it cost me.
Forsake me not utterly; not totally and finally; for then I shall fall into the foulest sins and greatest mischief. Not that he was contented to be forsaken in the least degree, but this he more especially deprecates, as he had great reason to do.
Young man; or, any man. But he names the
young man, because such are commonly void of wisdom and experience, heady and wilful, and impatient of admonition, full of violent passions and strong lusts, and exposed to many and great temptations.
Cleanse his way; reform his life, or purge himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.
By taking heed thereto according to thy word; by a diligent and circumspect watch over himself, and the examination and regulation of all his actions by the rules of thy word.
Deny me not thy grace and assistance, which I have so sincerely and earnestly desired, and laboured to obtain.
Let me not wander, Heb. do not make me to wander, to wit, by leading me into temptation, by withdrawing thy grace, which is necessary to keep me from wandering.
I have not contented myself with bare hearing or reading thy word, but have received it in the love of it, have diligently pondered it, and laid it up in my mind and memory like a choice treasure, to be ready upon all occasions, to counsel, or comfort, or quicken, or caution me, as need requires; that by a diligent and affectionate consideration of thy precepts, and promises, and threatenings, I might be kept from sinful courses, against which these are the best antidote.
Blessed art thou; thou art infinitely blessed, and most worthy of all blessing and praise, and therefore do thou bless me in teaching me, as it follows. Or, Blessed be thou. I bless and praise thee for that great blessing of thy word, Psalms 119:11.
Teach me thy statutes, both to know and to practise them better.
If thou wilt teach me, I will teach others, as I have already done; and so thou shalt have glory, and others benefit by it.
In the way of thy testimonies; in the study and practice of them.
I will diligently and seriously consider the nature, and design, and extent of thy precepts, and especially so far as they concern my own duty.
Have respect unto thy ways; or, look unto them, as workmen constantly and carefully look to their rule to guide themselves by it.
Deal bountifully; I plead no merit, but only thy free grace and rich mercy.
That I may live; safely and comfortably, in spite of all the attempts of mine enemies to take away my life.
And keep thy word: I do not desire life that I may satisfy my own lusts, but that I may spend it in thy service.
Open thou mine eyes; enlighten my mind by the light of thy Holy Spirit, and dispel all ignorance and error.
Wondrous things out of thy law; those great and marvellous depths of Divine wisdom and goodness, and those profound mysteries of Christ and of God’s grace to mankind, and of that future and everlasting state, which are contained in God’s law, and which were not to be known but by divine illumination, Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 2:11,1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4,2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:17, especially in the times of the Old Testament.
Stranger, or sojourner. I am not here as in my home, but as a pilgrim travelling homeward in a strange land; which calls for thy pity and help. That law of nature, which thou hast planted in all men’s minds, teacheth them to show humanity to strangers, and to direct travellers; much more may this be expected from thee.
Thy commandments; which are my chief support and guide in my pilgrimage.
Breaketh; fainteth, as it frequently doth, when a thing vehemently desired is denied or delayed. Compare Proverbs 13:12.
Unto thy judgments; to a more sound knowledge and serious practice of them.
Hast rebuked, or dost rebuke, i.e. severely punish and destroy. And therefore I justly long for thy judgments, as for the love which I have to them, so for fear of those terrible judgments which thou sendest upon the despisers of them.
The proud; obstinate and presumptuous sinners, who sin with a high hand, and with contempt of God, and of his laws, and of his judgment; all which is the effect of pride.
That are cursed; that have the curse of God upon them, and upon all which they have or do; which is the depth of misery.
Do err; or, wander; knowingly, and wilfully, and maliciously, as proud sinners use to do.
Reproach, which I suffer unjustly and for thy sake, as he elsewhere complains.
I have kept thy testimonies, and therefore I am innocent from those crimes for which they censure and reproach me. Or, and therefore thou wilt maintain mine honour and interest according to thy promise made to such as keep thy testimonies, and I beg with some confidence that thou wilt do it.
Did sit and speak; did speak against me continually, (for sitting notes continuance,) and when they sat upon their seats of judicature, and when they sat together in companies, entertaining one another with discourses.
Did meditate in thy statutes; all their contumelies and reproaches did not discourage nor divert me from the study, belief, and practice of thy word.
My delight; my chief comfort under all their censures and persecutions.
My counsellors, to teach me how to carry myself under them.
My soul cleaveth unto the dust; I am in evident danger of present death, through the rage and power of mine enemies; I am like one laid in the grave, without all hopes of recovery. So this phrase is used Psalms 22:15.
Quicken thou me; preserve my life, or revive me and raise me out of the dust by thy almighty power.
According to thy word; according to thy promise.
My ways; my sins, in way of confession; and all my cares, and fears, and troubles, and concerns, in way of humble petition to thee, as appears from God’s answer.
Make me to understand, more thoroughly and more practically, the way of thy precepts; either,
1. The full mind and meaning of thy precepts, which are exceeding broad, as he saith afterwards; or,
2. The way wherein I may walk according to thy precepts; how to demean myself in all the varieties of my condition, and in all my affairs and actions, so as is most agreeable to thy precepts.
Thy wondrous works; even the wonders of the law mentioned before, Psalms 119:18.
Melteth, like wax before the fire; it hath no strength nor consistency left in it, but consumeth or pineth away.
For heaviness; through grief, partly for my extreme danger and misery; and principally for my sins, and thy wrath and terrors following upon them.
Strengthen thou me, that so I may bear my burdens patiently and cheerfully, and vanquish all my temptations.
The way of lying; or, of falsehood; either,
1. The practice of lying, and dissembling, and cheating, which is so rife in Saul’s court, and in the courts of most princes; but, Lord, let it not be so in my courts. Or rather,
2. Every false way of doctrine or worship; for to this way he opposeth God’s law in the next clause. And he justly prayeth to God to keep him from apostacy, heresy, idolatry, and superstition, because his own corrupt nature of itself and without God’s grace was prone to these errors, and not only heathens, but many Israelites, did frequently fall into them.
Grant me thy law graciously; vouchsafe unto me an accurate knowledge and firm belief of thy word, and that I may constantly attend and adhere to it, and govern myself by it in all things.
I have chosen the way of truth, to wit, thy word or law, for my portion, and the rule of my worship and whole life.
Laid before me; or, set before me, as the phrase is fully expressed, Psalms 16:8, as a delightful object, or as a mark to aim at, or as a rule to direct me.
I have stuck unto thy testimonies; I have resolutely persisted in the practice of thy precepts, in spite of all temptations, reproaches, persecutions, and discouragements, to which I was exposed in and for so doing.
Put me not to shame; either,
1. By giving me over to apostacy or transgression, which will bring shame; or rather,
2. By the disappointment of my hopes and confidence in those promises of the blessings of this life. as well as of the next, which thou hast made to the obedient, of which I have made in boast.
I will run the way of thy commandments, I will obey thy precepts with all readiness, fervency, and diligence,
when thou shalt enlarge my heart: either,
1. When thou shalt bring me out of my present straits or distresses. This in deed is called enlarging, as Psalms 4:1; Psalms 18:36, but never, to my remembrance, the enlarging of the heart. Or rather,
2. When thou shalt replenish my heart with more wisdom and love to and delight in thee and thy law; for this enlargement of heart in Scripture is ascribed to wisdom, 1 Kings 4:29, and love, 2 Corinthians 6:11, and joy, Isaiah 60:5; when thou shalt knock off those fetters of remaining corruption, and give me a more noble and generous disposition towards thee, and stablish me with thy free spirit, as it is expressed, Psalms 51:12. Thus David both owns his duty, and asserts the absolute necessity of God’s grace to the performance of it.
Or, that I may keep it, &c. That I may persevere; for apostacy proceeds from the want of a good understanding.
Make me to go, by directing my mind into the right way, by inclining my will, and strengthening my resolution.
For therein do I delight: forsake not him who delighteth in the: and in thy service; and as thou hast wrought in me to will work in me also to do.
Unto thy testimonies; to the love and practice of them.
Not to covetousness; not to the inordinate love and desire of riches: which particular lust he mentions, partly, be cause this lust is most spreading and universal, and there is scarce any man who doth not desire riches either for the love of riches, or upon pretence of necessity, or for the service of pride or luxury, or some other lust; partly, because, this lust is most opposite to God’s testimonies, and doth most commonly hinder men from receiving God’s word, and from profiting by it; see Matthew 13:22; Luke 16:2 and partly, because this lust is most pernicious, as being the root of all evil, 1 Timothy 6:10, and is most mischievous in princes and governors, such as David was, and therefore in a special manner forbidden to them, Exodus 18:21.
Vanity; the vain things and lusts of this present evil world, such as riches, honours, pleasures; from beholding them, to wit, with admiration and inordinate affection; for such a sight of the eyes doth usually affect the heart, and stir up men’s lusts and passions; of which see Numbers 15:39; Job 31:1; Proverbs 4:25; Proverbs 23:5,Proverbs 23:6; Matthew 5:28
Quicken thou me in thy way; as I desire that I may be dull and dead in afflictions to worldly vanities; so, Lord, make me lively, and vigorous, and fervent in thy work and service.
Confirm and perform thy promises, as concerning the kingdom, so also for the giving of gracious assistances, directions and comforts to those that fear thee, of which number I am one.
Turn away my reproach; either,
1. For the shameful disappointment of my hopes and confident boastings concerning the truth and certainty of thy promises; or,
2. For my manifold failings, and particularly for that shameful matter about Uriah and Bathsheba; or,
3. For my instability in or apostacy from thy ways; which in respect of mine own weakness and folly I have great cause to fear. For thy judgments are good: this may be a reason either,
1. Why he prayed and hoped that God would turn away reproach from him, because God’s word and statutes were good, and therefore it was not fit for any to suffer reproach in and for his diligent observation of them; or,
2. Why he feared reproach, because he had, and feared he might hereafter, transgress those judgments or statutes of God which were, and he very well knew to be, good, i.e. just, and holy, and excellent, and therefore it was a shameful thing to violate them.
After thy precepts; after a more solid knowledge and constant performance of thy precepts.
Quicken me; do thou preserve and maintain both my natural and spiritual life.
In thy righteousness; according to thy justice or faithfulness, which obligeth thee to make good thy promises.
Let promised mercies be performed to me.
That reproacheth me; that chargeth me with folly for my piety and trust in thy promises.
For I trust in thy word; or, because I trust, &c. This was the matter of their reproach.
Do not deal so with me, that I shall be altogether ashamed to mention thy word, which I have so often affirmed to be a word of truth and infallible certainty, of which I have often made my boast.
In thy judgments; either in thy word and promises, or in thy judicial administrations and government of the world, which as it is matter of terror to the wicked, so it is matter of comfort and hope to me.
So shall I be obliged and encouraged to the constant and perpetual study and observation of thy laws.
I will walk at liberty; or, I shall walk at large, as it is in the margin; I shall be delivered from all my present straits, both of the outward and inward man, and enjoy great freedom and comfort in thy ways.
Before kings; who commonly entertain all godly discourses with scorn and contempt.
Whereas other princes place their delight in the glories and vanities of this world, and the study and practice of religion is generally irksome and loathsome to them, thy law shall be my chief delight and recreation.
Lift up; to lay hold upon them, to receive and embrace thy precepts and promises by faith and love, and cheerfully and vigorously to put them in practice; for as the hanging down of the hands is a gesture of sloth and listlessness, as 2 Chronicles 15:7, and elsewhere; so the lifting up of the hands is the posture of a man entering upon action, as Genesis 41:44; 2 Samuel 20:21.
I will meditate in thy statutes; my deepest thoughts, as well as my hands, shall be exercised in them.
The word; thy promises.
Caused me to hope, by thy command requiring it of me, and by thy grace working it in me.
This, to wit, thy word, as is evident both from the foregoing and following words.
Hath quickened me; hath preserved my life in manifold dangers, and hath revived and cheered my spirit.
Greatly in derision, for my godliness and trust in thy word, as the following words imply.
Thy judgments of old; thy former and ancient dispensations to the children of men in punishing the ungodly, and protecting and delivering thy faithful servants, whose experience is my encouragement.
Horror; a mixed passion made up of indignation at their persons as sinful, and abhorrency of their sins, and dread and sorrow at the consideration of the judgments of God coming upon them.
Because of the wicked that forsake thy law; for the dishonour which they bring to God, the scandal and mischief to others, and their own certain ruin.
My songs; the matter of my songs, my delight and recreation.
In the house of my pilgrimage; either,
1. In this present world, which I do not own for my home, wherein I am a stranger and pilgrim, as all my fathers were, Psalms 39:12; compare Genesis 47:9. Or,
2. In mine exile, and in the wildernesses and other places where I have been oft forced to wander, when I was banished from all my friends, and from the place of thy worship, and had no other support or comfort but the remembrance of thy statutes.
Thy name; thy holy nature and attributes, thy blessed word, and thy wonderful works; all which come under the title of God’s name.
In the night, when darkness causeth fear in others, I took pleasure in remembering thee; and when others abandon all business, and wholly give themselves up to rest and sleep, my thoughts and affections were working towards thee.
And have kept thy law; this was the fruit of my serious remembrance of thee.
This I had, this comfortable and profitable remembrance and contemplation of thy name and statutes, of which he spoke Psalms 119:54,Psalms 119:55, because I kept thy precepts; which if I had wilfully and wickedly broken, the remembrance of these things would have been sad and frightful to me, as now it is comfortable, because I kept them.
Whereas other men place their portion and happiness in worldly things, I have chosen thee for my portion and chief treasure, as he said, Psalms 16:5; Psalms 73:26, and thou hast an all-sufficient and an excellent portion for me.
I have said; I have not only purposed it in my own heart, but have professed and owned it before others, and I do not repent of it.
Thy favour; thy gracious presence and merciful assistance, as it follows.
I seriously considered both my former counsels and courses, that I might be humbled for my past errors, and might now amend them, and my duty in all my future actions. And finding that my feet had too often swerved from thy rule, I turned them to it. And although the ways of sinful pleasure and advantage were presented to my mind, yet I rejected them, and turned myself wholly to thy ways.
Being fully convinced of the necessity and excellency of obedience, I presently resolved upon it, and immediately put it in execution.
Robbed me; or, made a prey of me; done me many injuries for my respect to thy law.
I will rise out of my bed to praise thee in a solemn manner; not being contented with those short ejaculations which he might have used lying in his bed. Thy righteous judgments, i.e. laws, which are so useful to direct and comfort me.
Not excepting the poorest and meanest, whose society other princes disdain.
Thou dost satisfy the just desires and necessities of all men and all creatures with the fruits of thy goodness. The generality of other men chiefly desire the blessings of this life; but, Lord, give me thy spiritual blessings, the saving knowledge, love, and practice of thy law.
Good judgment; whereby I may rightly discern between truth and falsehood, good and evil, between the mind of God and my own or others’ inventions; that so I may be kept from those mistakes and errors in which many are involved, that I may truly judge what thy law requires or permits, and what it forbids. Heb. the goodness of taste, an experimental sense and relish of divine things. Compare Psalms 34:8.
Knowledge; a spiritual and experimental knowledge. And judgment, or taste, and knowledge may, by a usual figure called hendiadis, be put for judicious, or solid, or practical knowledge.
I have believed thy commandments; I have believed the Divine authority of them, and the truth and certainty of those promises and threatenings which thou hast annexed to them.
I went astray, as men generally do in their prosperity. See Deuteronomy 32:15; Psalms 73:4-6, &c.; Proverbs 1:32; Jeremiah 22:21.
Thou art good; gracious and bountiful in thy nature.
And doest good to all men, both good and bad, Matthew 5:45, and in all things, yea, even when thou afflictest.
Teach me thy statutes; which is the good that I desire above all things.
Forged a lie; a slander, charging me with hypocrisy towards God, and rebellion against my prince.
But I will keep thy precepts; my practice shall confute their calumnies.
Their heart is as fat as grease; the sense is either,
1. They are stupid, and insensible, and past feeling, not affected either with the terrors or comforts of God’s word. So the like phrase is used Isaiah 6:10, compared with John 12:40. Or,
2. They prosper exceedingly, and are even glutted with the wealth and comforts of this life.
But I delight in thy law; but I do not envy them their jollity, and I have as much delight in God’s law as they have in worldly things.
Good; necessary, and greatly beneficial. He repeats what in effect he said before, Psalms 119:67, partly to intimate the certainty and importance of this truth, and partly because it is a great paradox to worldly men, who generally esteem afflictions to be evil, yea, the worst of evils.
Not only thy promises, but even thy precepts, which are so unpleasant and hard to ungodly men, to me they are more desirable and more needful and profitable, because they do not only give me abundant satisfaction and comfort in this life, but also they conduct me with safety and delight unto that eternal and most blessed life, where gold and silver bear no price.
I am thy creature, and therefore obliged to serve and obey thee with all my might; which that I may do aright I beg thy instruction or assistance. Or, thou hast made me once, make me a second time, and renew thy decayed image in me, that I may know and serve thee better; and that as I was made by thee, so I may be guided by thy grace to serve and glorify my Creator.
Will be glad; partly for my sake, of whose innocency and piety they are convinced, and therefore sympathize with me; and partly for their own sakes, both for the encouragement they have by my example to trust in God, and for the manifold benefits, both spiritual and temporal, which they expect from my government.
See me, to wit, alive and in safety, notwithstanding all the force and malice of mine enemies, and advanced to the kingdom.
I have hoped in thy word; in thy promise, and have not been disappointed of my hope, which is a great confirmation of their faith and hope in God, that, they shall obtain all the good things which God hath promised them.
I know by the convictions of my own conscience, and by experience.
Thy judgments, i.e. thy corrections, as the next clause explains this.
In faithfulness; in pursuance of thy promises, and in order to my good, that by my afflictions thou mightest purge me from those sins which might provoke thy wrath against me, and prepare me for a better administration, and more lasting and comfortable enjoyment of my kingdom.
Yet in judgment remember mercy, and give me that comfort and assistance in, and that deliverance out of, my troubles which thou hast promised me.
That I may live; that I may be preserved from that violent and untimely death which mine enemies design to bring upon me.
For thy law is my delight; I humbly beg and expect thy protection, because I am thy faithful servant.
They dealt perversely with me, Heb. they have perverted me; either by their calumnies, whereby they have put false and perverse constructions upon all my words and actions; or by endeavouring to overthrow and destroy me, or to turn me out of the way of thy precepts. But all their wicked attempts against me shall never drive me from the study, and love, and practice of thy precepts.
Turn unto me; either,
1. Turn their eyes to me as a spectacle of God’s wonderful mercy; or rather,
2. Turn their hearts and affections to me, which have been alienated from me, either by the artifices and calumnies of my adversaries, or by my sore and long distresses, which made them prone to think that either I had deceived them with false pretences, or that God for my sins had utterly forsaken me; which doubtless was a very grievous burden to David, who had a far greater esteem and affection for such persons than for all other men, and desired above all things to stand right in their opinions.
Known, i.e. loved and practised them; as words of knowledge are oft used.
Sound, Heb. perfect, or entire, that I may love and obey them sincerely, constantly, and universally.
That I be not ashamed, to wit, for my sins, which are the only just causes of shame, and for the disappointment of my hopes following upon them.
Fainteth, with longing desire, and earnest expectation, and hope deferred, and hitherto disappointed.
Mine eyes fail, with looking hither and thither, and to thee for help.
In the smoke; hung up in a smoking chimney. My natural moisture is dried and burnt up; I am withered, and deformed, and despised, and my case grows worse and worse every day.
The days; either,
1. The days of my life, as the word days is commonly used, Genesis 6:3; Job 7:1,Job 7:6; Psalms 39:5,Psalms 39:6. I have but a little while to live in the world, give me some respite before I die, and help me speedily, otherwise it will be too late. Or rather,
2. The days of my misery, as the next clause implies, and as days are taken, Psalms 37:13; Psalms 116:2, and elsewhere. How long, Lord, shall my miseries last? for ever?
Have digged pits for me; have sought to destroy me by deceit and treachery, as well as by violence.
1. Which men have no respect to thy law, which forbids such things. Or rather,
2. Which thing, to wit, to dig pits for me, an innocent and just man, is not agreeable to thy law, but directly contrary to it.
Are faithful; they are in themselves most just and true, and they require justice and faithfulness from men, promising many blessings to those that perform it, and severely forbid all fraud and falseness, threatening grievous punishments to those that use it; and such promises and threatenings are true, and shall certainly be executed.
They had almost consumed me upon earth, as to my present life and all my happiness upon earth; whereby he implies that his immortal soul and eternal happiness in heaven, of which he speaks, Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15, and elsewhere, was safe, and out of their reach.
Heb. and I will keep. I will testify my gratitude to thee by my obedience.
Although many things happen upon earth which seem contrary to thy word, and at which men take occasion to question the truth of thy word, yet in heaven it is sure and certainly true.
In heaven; either,
1. With thee in thy heavenly habitation, or in thy breast; as thy nature is unchangeable, so thy word is infallible. Or rather,
2. In the heavenly bodies, which are not subject to those changes and decays which are in this lower world, but constantly continue the same in their substance, and order, and courses, and this by virtue of that word of God by which they were made and established in this manner; and therefore God’s word delivered to his people upon earth, which is of the same nature, must needs be of equal certainty and stability. This sense best suits with the following verses, and with other scriptures, wherein the certainty of God’s word is set forth by comparing it with the stability of the heaven and the earth, as Matthew 5:18, and elsewhere.
Every age gives fresh proofs of the truth of thy word.
The earth abideth in that place and state in which thou didst establish it. See Ecclesiastes 1:4.
They continue; the heaven and the earth last mentioned.
According to thine ordinances; as thou hast appointed, and by virtue of thine appointment.
All are thy servants; all things are subject to thy power and pleasure, and none can resist thy will or word.
Then; at the very instant; I could not have outlived one stroke of thine afflicting hand.
Revived and cheered me, when my heart was ready to sink and die within me.
I am thine by creation and redemption, and manifold obligations, as also by my own choice and designation. I have devoted myself to thy service, and committed myself to thy care.
As my best comforters, and counsellors, and defenders against all the assaults and designs of mine enemies.
I have seen an end of all perfection; I have observed by my experience that the greatest and most perfect accomplishments and enjoyments in this world, the greatest glory, and riches, and power, and wisdom, are too narrow and shortlived to make men happy.
Thy commandment; thy word; one part of it being synecdochically put for the whole.
Broad, or large, both for extent and for continuance; it is useful to all persons in all times and conditions, and for all purposes, to inform, direct, quicken, comfort, sanctify, and save men; it is of everlasting truth and efficacy; it will never deceive nor forsake those who trust to it, as all worldly things will, but will make men happy both here and for ever.
O how love I thy law! O Lord, thou knowest it, and to thee I appeal herein against all the censures and calumnies of mine enemies to the contrary.
Thou, through thy commandments, hast made me wiser than mine enemies, because by that means I have thy wisdom to guide me, and thy power engaged to protect and save me; which is a more certain and effectual way to obtain my desires and ends than all the policy and craft of mine enemies is to hinder them, as I have found by experience. They are ever with me; they are continually before mine eyes, as a rule by which to govern all my actions, whereby I am kept from splitting upon those rocks whereby others are ruined.
Understanding: he speaks not here of notional, but of spiritual, and practical, and experimental knowledge.
Than all my teachers; than all or most (for that general word is oft so understood) of those who taught me formerly, or of the public teachers in Saul’s time; which probably were for the generality of them neither so knowing nor so good as they should have been.
My meditations; the matter of my constant and most diligent study.
By which reason he intimates that the practice of religion is the best way to understand it, and that men’s vicious hearts and lives are the greatest hinderances of all true and solid knowledge of it.
Evil way; or, way of evil; which either is evil, or leads to it; sin, and the temptations or occasions of sin.
That, I might keep thy word; I did this not for any carnal reasons, as some men abstain from divers sins for their credit or advantage, but out of pure respect to thy word.
To wit, by thy blessed Spirit, illuminating my mind, and working upon my heart, which other teachers cannot do.
The study and obedience of thy words yields me more satisfaction and delight than any worldly men find in their sensual pleasures.
Understanding; true, and useful and powerful knowledge.
Therefore; because that discovers to me, as the wickedness, so the folly and mischief of such practices.
Every false way; every thing which is contrary to that rule of truth and right, all false doctrine and worship, and all sinful or vicious courses.
To direct me in all my doubts and difficulties, to preserve from sin and misery, both which oft come under the name of darkness, and to comfort me in all my fears and distresses.
I have sworn; obliged myself by serious purpose and solemn vow, or by a formal oath, which was not unusual amongst God’s people, as 2 Chronicles 15:15; Nehemiah 10:29.
Will perform it; I do not repent of it, but by God’s grace I will fulfil it.
The free-will offerings of my mouth; either,
1. Those which I have promised with my mouth, though I am not now in a capacity of performing my promises, as being banished from thy house. Or rather,
2. The sacrifices of prayer and praises, which I do freely and frequently offer unto thee; which are called sacrifices, as Psalms 50:14, and calves of our lips, Hosea 14:2.
In my hand; exposed to perpetual and extreme danger, as any precious and frail thing is which a man carrieth openly in his hand, whence it may easily fall or be snatched away by a violent hand. See the same or like phrase, Judges 12:3; 1 Samuel 19:5; Job 13:14.
I have chosen them for my chief portion, from which I will never part.
As I prayed to thee to incline mine heart to them, above Psalms 119:36, so I did not neglect my duty, but cheerfully complied with the motions of thy Spirit, and yielded up my mind and heart to the study and practice of them.
Thoughts -this word signifies thoughts, Job 4:13; Job 20:2, or opinions, 1 Kings 18:21; which being indifferent to good and evil, is here taken in an evil sense, for vain thoughts, as we render it, or for thoughts, or opinions, or devices of men differing from or opposite to God’s law, as may be gathered from the next clause, where God’s law is opposed to these, and as some both Jewish and Christian expositors understand it. Nor is it unusual in the Hebrew text for one and the same word to be taken both in a good and an ill sense in several places; whereof we have one instance in a word of the same signification with this, mezimmah, which signifies a thought, and is sometimes taken in a good sense, as Proverbs 1:4; Proverbs 3:8; Proverbs 8:12; Proverbs 13:16; Jeremiah 51:11; but elsewhere in a bad sense, as Job 21:27; Psalms 10:2,Psalms 10:4; Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 14:17. The like hath been observed concerning another Hebrew word of the same or near signification, hormah which is taken in a good sense, Proverbs 1:4; Proverbs 13:16, &c., and in an ill sense, as Exodus 21:14; Joshua 9:4; Job 5:13. And the like may be said concerning this word also. But the ancient interpreters understand this word not of things, but of persons, and so it may be understood of men that think evil, that devise wicked devices, or that have false and evil opinions, opposite to God’s law, or tending to seduce men from it.
And therefore will avoid your society and conversation, lest I should be hindered from that which is good, and drawn to sin by your evil counsel or example.
Or, because of my hope, or confidence in thy promises, of the certainty whereof I have oft made my boast before others.
And being freed from those distractions and diversions which my pressing dangers occasion, I will wholly devote myself to the study and practice of thy blessed word.
All their crafty and deceitful devices, by which they design to insnare and ruin me, and other good men, shall deceive them and their own expectations, and bring that destruction upon themselves which they design for others.
Thou puttest away; thou removest them from thy presence, and from the society of thy people, and from the land of the living.
Like dross; which, though for a season it be mixed with gold or silver, is not only separated from it as a useless and contemptible thing, but also is utterly consumed by fire.
Therefore I love thy testimonies; because they are the best preservatives against wickedness, and against those dreadful punishments attending upon it, of which he professeth his fear in the next verse.
The observation of thy terrible judgments against ungodly men, and the conscience of my own infirmity and manifold sins, makes me fear lest thou shouldst punish me also, as thou mightest justly do, if thou shouldst be strict to mark what is amiss in me; or lest I should partake with them in their sins, and consequently in their plagues.
Judgment and justice, i.e. just judgment, as Ecclesiastes 5:8, to wit, towards mine oppressors, whom I have no way injured.
Do thou undertake and plead my cause against all mine enemies, as a surety rescues the poor persecuted debtor from the hands of a severe creditor.
For good; for my safety and comfort.
For the performance of thy righteous, or faithful, or merciful word or promise.
Not according to strict justice, nor according to my sins.
It is time; it is high time, or a fit season. To work; to put forth thy power for the vindication of thy own name and cause, and for the restraint and punishment of evildoers.
They, to wit, mine oppressors, or the wicked; whom it was needless to express, both because they had been lately and frequently mentioned before, and partly because it was evident from the following words.
Have made void thy law; or, abrogated thy law; have professedly and openly cast off its authority, resolvedly preferring their own wills and lusts before it, trampled upon thy plain commands, and despised both thy promises and thy threatenings. They have not only sinned through ignorance and infirmity, but presumptuously and. maliciously.
Partly, because it is one evidence of their excellency, that they are disliked by the vilest of men; partly, out of a just indignation and opposition against my sworn enemies; and partly, because the great and general apostacy of others makes this duty more necessary to prevent their own and other men’s relapses.
Therefore, for the reasons now mentioned, I do not make void all thy precepts, as they did, Psalms 119:126, nor yet am I partial in my approbation of them, as others are, who reject all such as are opposite to their lusts and interests; but I approve all of them without any exception, and that not only in my judgment, but in my heart and life, as appears by that hatred of sin which is opposed to it in the next clause.
Wonderful; in regard of the deep and wonderful mysteries, and most excellent counsels and directions, far exceeding all the rules of the greatest philosophers, and the exceeding great and precious promises of God contained in them. This is the reason of his high estimation of them, expressed in the last verse.
The entrance of thy words; the very beginnings and rudiments of them; the first discoveries of those sacred mysteries; and much more the depths of them, in which their chief excellency consists. Or, as others both ancient and later interpreters render the place, The opening of thy words; by which may be understood, either,
1. The opening of men’s minds by the word of God; but that seems to be the same thing with giving light, which here follows; or,
2. The opening or declaration of God’s mind made in and by his word.
Unto the simple; to the most ignorant and unlearned persons, who are but willing to learn.
I thirst after thy precepts, and pursue them eagerly, as it were with open mouth, ready and greedy to receive them. It is a metaphor from one that makes great haste after another, whereby he is forced to pant and to open his mouth for air to refresh himself.
Look thou upon me, to wit, favourably, as the next clause explains it, and as this phrase is commonly used; whereby also he implies that God at present did hide his face and favour from him.
As thou usest to do unto those that love thy name; as thou hast done in all former ages. Do not deny me the common privilege of all the faithful.
Order my steps; by thy grace direct and govern all my motions and actions.
In thy word; in the way prescribed in thy word; or, by thy word. Let thy Spirit accompany thy word, and ingraft it within me, so that I may be guided and ruled by it. And although I have evil inclinations and affections within me, let them not bear sway in me, nor withdraw me from the course of obedience.
As he prayed against the inward impediment of his obedience, Psalms 119:133, so here he prayeth against an external impediment of it, and a common temptation to sin.
Look upon me with a pleased and favourable countenance. Compare Numbers 6:25; Proverbs 16:15.
Rivers of waters; plentiful and perpetual tears, witnesses of my deep sorrow for God’s dishonour and displeasure, and for the miseries which sinners bring upon themselves and others. They, to wit, the wicked, as before, Psalms 119:126, who were not worthy to be mentioned; for this pronoun is oft used in way of contempt, as Luke 14:24; Luke 19:27; John 7:11; John 8:10; Acts 16:36.
Righteous art thou, by thine essence and nature, and therefore it is impossible that thou shouldst be unjust in any of thy laws or providences.
But this verse is otherwise rendered by all the ancient interpreters, and by divers others, and that more agreeably to the order of the words in the Hebrew text, Thou hast commanded righteousness, even
thy testimonies (or, the righteousness of thy testimonies; or, thy righteous testimonies, by a common Hebraism; or rather, righteousness in or by thy testimonies; nothing being more frequent than the ellipsis of the prefix beth, which signifies in or by) and truth, (or, and true, thy righteous and true testimonies; although the other seems to be the better translation,) earnestly. So the sense is, Thou hast strictly and severely, under the highest obligations and penalties, commanded in thy word that men should be just and true in all their actions. And this agrees very well with the next foregoing verse, wherein he affirmed that God is righteous, and doth righteous things; and then here he adds that he requires righteousness and truth from all men.
Hath consumed me; I am tormented and cut to the heart with grief and anger at it.
Have forgotten thy words, i.e. despise and disobey them; which in Scripture use is oft called a forgetting of them, as the remembering of them is oft put for loving and practising them.
Very pure; without the least mixture of any falsehood or sin, both which are frequent in the words or precepts of men.
Therefore; because of that exact purity and holiness of it, for which very reason ungodly men either despise or hate it.
Small; or, a little one; not for age, but in respect of my condition in the world; mean and obscure.
An everlasting righteousness; constant and unchangeable, the same in all ages and places, and to all persons, of eternal truth and justice, never to be dispensed with, nor to be made void.
The truth; nothing but truth; or as true as truth itself.
Outward troubles and anguish of spirit, or great anguish or distress.
I shall be kept from those sins which deserve and bring death.
The dawning of the morning, Heb. the twilight, to wit, of the morning, by comparing Psalms 88:13. And so this word is used 1 Samuel 30:17.
The night watches, Heb. the watches; which were kept only by night. And these watches were then three, as hath been more than once observed. And this is not to be understood of the first watch, which was at the beginning of the night, for the prevention thereof was very easy, and frequent, and inconsiderable; but of the middle watch, as it is called, Judges 7:19, which was set in the middle of the night; and especially of the morning watch, as it is called, Exodus 14:24, which was set some hours before the dawning of the day; and so this is an aggravation and addition to what he said Psalms 119:147.
According to thy word, which is oft called God’s judgment; or, according to thy custom or manner of dealing with me and with others of thy people; as this word is taken above, Psalms 119:132.
They draw nigh, to wit, to me, or against me, as Psalms 27:2; they are at hand, and ready to seize upon me.
They are far from thy law; they cast away far from them all thoughts of and respect to thy law, which forbids such wicked practices.
Thou art near to me. Thou art as ready and present to succour me as they are to molest me.
Thy commandments; considered with the promises and threatenings, which are frequently annexed to them. Or, the promises, as this word seems to be used, Psalms 111:7, and elsewhere in this Psalm. And God is said to command not only his precepts, or the observation thereof, but also his covenant, Psalms 105:8; Psalms 111:9, which is a collection or body of the promises; and his loving-kindness, Psalms 42:8, which is the fountain of the promises; and his blessing, Psalms 133:3, which is the fruit of his promises; and deliverances, Psalms 44:4, which are the things promised. And therefore it is not strange if he promises be sometimes called commandments.
Known of old, by my own long experience, ever since I arrived at any knowledge in those matters.
That thou hast founded them for ever; that thou hast established them upon sure and everlasting foundations.
And therefore, on the contrary, I trust that thou wilt save me because I do seek them. My wicked enemies shall certainly be destroyed, by which means I shall be delivered.
According to the manner of thy administrations towards thy people, as Psalms 119:149.
Though they tempt me to do so, and persecute me because I will not do it.
I observed and considered their ungodly courses.
I love thy precepts; which was the cause of my grief for their violation of them.
From the beginning; either from the beginning of the world, or ever since thou hast revealed thy mind by thy word to the sons of men; all thy words have been found to be true and certain, and so they will be to the end of the world, as is implied in the next clause. Or, as it is in the margin, the beginning (or, as others render it, the sum, as this very word is used, Exodus 30:12; Numbers 26:2; Numbers 31:26, to wit, the whole of it, there is not the least part of it which is not so) of thy word is true.
Princes; who had power to do it, and who ought to have used their authority to protect me, whom they knew to be innocent and injured.
But my heart standeth in awe of thy word; but I feared thine offence and displeasure more than their wrath.
Lying; or, falsehood; either,
1. In my speech and actions; all hypocrisy and deceit, which is the common practice of mine enemies, and of all godless politicians: or,
2. In doctrine and worship, as this word seems to be used, Psalms 119:29, because both there and here it is opposed to God’s law.
Seven times; many times; that definite number being oft taken indefinitely, as Leviticus 26:28, and elsewhere.
Great peace; either outward prosperity and happiness, which God in his law hath expressly promised to good men; or at least inward peace, satisfaction and tranquility of mind, arising from the sense of God’s love to them and watchful care over them in all the concerns of this life and of the next.
Have they, Heb. is to them, or shall be to them; for the verb being not expressed, it may be understood either way. Although they may meet with some disturbance, yet their end shall be peace, as is said, Psalms 37:37.
Nothing shall offend them, Heb. they shall have no stumbling-block, to wit, such at which they shall stumble and fall into mischief and utter ruin, as ungodly men have, before whom God doth oft lay stumbling-blocks, or occasions of sin and destruction, as it is affirmed by God himself, Jeremiah 6:21; Ezekiel 3:20; Romans 9:33, out of Isaiah 8:14.
Thus performing the condition which thou hast required, I justly and confidently hope for thy mercy promised.
I have not only obeyed thy commands, which a hypocrite may sometimes and in part do for worldly ends, but I have done it with my very soul, and from a hearty love to them.
For, or because, all my ways are before thee. This is added either,
1. As the reason or motive of his obedience, which was the consideration of God’s omniscience, and his desire to approve himself and his ways to God; or,
2. As a proof and evidence of it. Whereas this and all his former professions of his piety were charged by his enemies with deep hypocrisy, and might seem to savour of pride and vainglory, here in the close of them he makes a solemn appeal to that God who knew his heart and all his ways, and whether these things were not true and real; which if they were not, he tacitly imprecates God’s judgment upon himself.
Near before thee; which at present thou seemest to shut out, as the church complained, Lamentations 3:8.
Understanding; whereby I may both know and perform my duty in all particulars.
Shall speak, Heb. shall pour forth, freely and abundantly, like a fountain. Of thy word; in praise of it, for its righteousness, as it here follows, its truth, and purity, and other excellencies.
Thy commandments; even those which to men of corrupted minds seem harsh and unjust.
For my guide and companion, and chief joy and treasure.
For thy salvation; either,
1. For deliverance from my present straits and calamities, that I may serve thee with more freedom, and may glorify thy name in a more solemn and public manner; or,
2. That thou wouldst completely save me, not only from my outward pressures, but also from my sins, from my dulness and deadness in thy service, from all inclinations and temptations to apostacy and impiety, and from my other indispositions and corruptions, against which he prayeth in divers parts of this Psalm; and that at last thou wouldst crown me with eternal salvation in thy kingdom, which it is apparent that David did believe and expect, and hath been already proved from divers passages of this book.
1. Thy providential dispensation, whereby thou judgest and rulest the world, punishing the wicked, and protecting and delivering the godly. Or,
2. Thy word or testimonies, as this word most commonly signifies in this Psalm, which are the only ground of my hope in thy help.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep: this is meant either,
1. Of sinful errors. I have too often swerved from the path of thy precepts through mine own infirmity, or the power of temptation. Or,
2. Of penal errors. I have been banished by the power and tyranny of mine enemies from all my friends and relations, and, which is far worse, from the place of thy worship and presence, and forced to wander hither and thither, hiding myself in mountains, and caves, and woods, exposed to a thousand snares and dangers.
Seek thy servant, as the shepherd doth his wandering sheep, and bring me back into thy fold.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 119". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13